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Robert Bloomfield

Social emotional and behavioural difficulties

Pupils with social emotional or behavioural difficulties exhibit behaviours which make it difficult for them to function effectively at school or disrupt the education of other pupils. Pupils may be withdrawn, have low self-esteem, exhibit anti-social or uncooperative or aggressive behaviour. Many pupils with social emotional and behavioural difficulties have special needs as great as those with a more obvious disability and therefore need special help.

They need to develop a sense of worth before they can benefit from their education. Underneath, these pupils want to be liked, accepted and to feel successful. In many cases such pupils also experience significant difficulty in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills and often function at a frustration level and therefore feel that they fail all the time.

Implications for classroom practice:

 • make sure that work is at the right level so pupils can succeed

• take an interest in the pupil as an individual

• use humour to create a positive classroom atmosphere

• avoid confrontational situations - reprimand in private wherever possible, avoid sarcasm

• tactically ignore some unwanted behaviour while praising even small successes

• focus on the behaviour not the child's personality

• use school and year group reward systems

• in addition to the reward system it might help to use a contract and/or special rewards for individual pupils.

• ensure targets are very specific

• discuss problems with other staff, class teacher

• praise is often more effective in private or can be a series of unobtrusive signals - thumbs up, wink, nod

• set ground rules in the classroom so pupils know what is expected of them, be prepared to remind frequently

• emphasise the positive, individual praise for good behaviour as well as good work

• be fair and consistent, don't make idle threats

• target specific behaviour (e.g. calling out). Don't expect to put everything right at once - progress will be slow


give direct modelling of acceptable behaviour and suggest alternative ways of dealing with a situation

• reinforce rules frequently

• give clear, precise instructions

• stress positive, desirable outcomes

• provide frequent feedback and reinforcement

• a home school link book or communication system with home may be useful

• to involve the pupil with recording in a home/school link book (age appropriate) the pupil could describe the day by drawing smiley faces with a short explanation by the teacher if necessary

• negotiate targets and reward the pupil for meeting them

• praise and encouragement should be used as much as possible

• ensure stars recorded in homework diary

• praise appropriate behaviour which is taking place nearby, to pupil who is behaving inappropriately

• target certain behaviour which all staff teaching pupil deem to be a priority and work on changing that.

• consider positive changes rather than negative ones

• give a clear message to keep a pupil on task • negotiate a clear set of rules within the classroom

• ensure that rules are recorded for class viewing

• praise and reprimand based on these rules

• give a pupil a verbal warning and offer a strategy to avoid escalation of the problem

• reward a pupil for improved effort and attitude as well as achievement

• invalidate the behaviour at times by use of humour, redirection or isolation

• avoid confrontation


give small structured targets and responsibilities

• recognise strengths, have realistic expectations and praise for effort

• encourage the pupil to recognise his strengths as well as weaknesses

• negotiate targets and give a tangible reward when they are met